January 29, 2016 Subject:
Near the end of the Avalon
Middle of an Avalon run; the first of two 3-day runs there in '69 (most of the San Fran shows in '69 were at the Fillmore West and the 2nd run at the Avalon would be the last there). 2-27-69 is the Winter '69 touchstone; this is more of a "deep cut" show for '69 fanatics. Apparently there are two short sets - nobody seems to think this isn't complete, and there were other bands on the bill. But seems a lot like the long-one-set shows they'd been playing up to that point. There's a great Caution but a hella goofy mix.
First Set. Dark Star has some soaring parts but is pretty typical for '69 (check 2/27 and 3/2 for the top stuff of the winter). Eleven kills but unfortunately the vox are dropped. They come back during Lovelight (stoned mixer's composure regained after sitting on fader?), then [mostly] disappear again.
Second Set. Average '69 fare - even the Cosmic Charlie which was used over better ones as a bonus on Aoxomoxoa. There's the good Caution and Bid You Good Night is cut.
This is the second night the Dead played at Avalon Ballroom, also playing the previous night on 1/24. The previous night's show on the 24th included Cryptical>Other One>Cryptical, New Potato Caboose, Diamond's Dupree Blues, and Doin' That Rag in the first set. The second set, and the primary reason for citing the first night's set list, opens with a 19 minute long Dark Star. The show from 2/15 is generally noted for the Dead breaking through a 20 minute time barrier in Dark Star, clocking in at 22 minutes. I would argue the 2/15 show has less evolutionary significance considering this Dark Star approached 20 minutes a month prior.
Anyways, back to the show at hand, January 25,1969. The first set is classic 60's Dead: Dark Star>St. Stephen>The Eleven>Lovelight. The second set is lackluster in my opinion but includes: Dupree's Diamond Blues>Doin' That Rag>Cosmic Charlie, Alligator>Caution>Feedback>And We Bid You Good Night.
The Dark Star is plagued by audio problems and often ruined by jarring organ playing. I dig TC's playing when he provides interesting harmony above the rest of the band, especially while jamming. But his sound doesn't lend itself well to the spacey, transcendental feeling of Dark Star in this recording. They played for 5 less minutes than the previous night, this Dark Star clocking in at 14 minutes, and played for another 5 less on 1/26. Perhaps they experimented with the long Dark Star but decided to pull it back for 1/26, knowing the show would be released.
The ebbing and flowing of TC's organ notes are much more tolerable in St. Stephen. However, the band doesn't really seem together and is a fairly weak rendition.
The Eleven has some decent playing in it but the vocals are inaudible. The boys are clearly warming their chops up for the next night's performance. I particularly love Phil's bass from about 9 minutes and into the Lovelight theme.
Again, solid playing in Lovelight but the beginning has some organ playing that sounds like you're leveling up in a video game and totally ruins the groove. You also can't hear Pigpen until the 1 minute, 30 second point in this recording. Jerry and Phil are tearing it up at the 4 minute mark for a bit and then Jerry breaks into the theme again at 5:40. I would also point out the unique Pigpen improv at 11 minutes. Lovelight has such a contagious, feel-good vibe that it's hard not to like it in any set.
The second set isn't strong at all. Whatever steam that was gained in the first set was clearly lost in the second. I suppose this is because they hadn't played Dupree's Diamond Blues or Doin' That Rag much and were still getting the hang of them. But, the songs from their regular repertoire also lacked energy, emotion, and really any notable playing.
I recommend listening to the next night they played at Avalon Ballroom if either the set lists from 1/24 or 1/25 interest you. The Dead's performance from the 26th would become their seminal "Live Dead" album. Both performances from the 24th and 25th provide context which can only add to anyone's appreciation of "Live Dead".
April 15, 2015 Subject:
January 27, 2014 Subject:
Too much TC
If you like TC, you will like this recording because he is so high in the mix. I personally find his playing like fingernails on a chalkboard, so it's pretty painful to me at times. Give me Pigpen's classic style any day.
August 23, 2013 Subject:
The Eleven, Love Light and (electric) Dupree's are very enjoyable versions. The microphones for vocals are nonexistent for The Eleven and early portion of Love Light, but the instrumentation is representative of the great winter and early spring shows.
4 once i hear all as well as each other, including TC!
October 14, 2011 Subject:
TC high in mix!
Even though some may not enjoy a less-than perfect mix, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing TC mixed way high....you can actually hear what a great keyboardist he was for the band. Most times TC is buried in the mix, but here, he does alot of runs (is that a Wurlitzer?)that jump out at you. So, if you need to have a perfect mix, go elsewhere. But you will miss out on another angle of appreciation that the Grateful Dead surely deserve! Go, Charlie Miller! Go!
October 13, 2011 Subject:
Is there a better 'feel-good' song than Lovelight? Even though Ron was hard to hear at times, I loved this Lovelight and the entire show.
I'll reluctantly subtract a star for the mix and other audio problems.
January 25, 2011 Subject:
Rugged, Raw & Yet At Times, Sublime
Yes, the levels are off at the start and yes, the organ is high in the mix, but I don't think that they distract from the overall quality of this show, which is quite good. There is a point several minutes into the Eleven where everything blends together perfectly, with all of the instruments well-balanced and all of the members playing off of one another in several levels of harmony, before the song veers back off into that loud, thunderous, wonderous 1969 noise. St. Stephen sounds like it's going to go right off of the tracks at several points, but at the last minute it comes back to the beat again. In the second set, Caution into Feedback is spot on, and then, right at the transition between Feedback and And We Bid You Good Night, there is this perfect moment where Jerry's voice comes in while the feedback is still fading out behind him that takes your breath away. Some of the other songs aren't quite there, thus four stars.
September 12, 2010 Subject:
Despite what Charlie Miller writes in his notes that the mix on Set 1 is a mess I find this to be a great rendition of the The Eleven even with some of the vocal tracks barely being audible.
Put the head phones on and enjoy Garcia and Lesh on this track (flaws and all).
September 7, 2010 Subject:
I only really bothered to listen to second set, per Charlie's recommendation. Funny show.
Seems like their working out some of the bugs in their just freshly premiered (as of the night before) Dupree's Diamond Blues and Doin' That Rag. Both renditions have Jerry forgetting lyrics and working out the kinks in the jams. Still charming to have, and sounds decent.
The Alligator is short and not as thoughtful as some renditions, but still spices up the setlist.
These shows are certainly a warm up to the wonderful February through April months of 1969. We can hear them about to burst out with the most energy and creativity they had played with yet. This show documents their "rehearsal" period rather than the best execution of each individual song.
3 for performance
4 for sound thanks CM, sounds great for a 41 year old recording
5 for historical relevance
= solid 4!